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The Risk of Forensic Hypnosis

The Risk of Forensic Hypnosis

Some time ago I wrote a couple of articles on the use of hypnosis in criminal investigation, also known as forensic hypnosis. This is one of the more controversial aspects of the use of hypnosis. In these cases, witnesses to crimes undergo questioning under hypnosis in order to assist recall and specifics of events to aid with a prosecution.

This practice is centred primarily in the US, but of late a couple of training courses have been launched to add an additional income stream to hypnotherapists. This despite the fact that the Home Office since the mid 1980’s has been clear that hypnotically refreshed testimony should not be used in criminal prosecutions as there is a high risk of fantasy and confabulation.

In the US State of Indiana the Federal Appeals Court has overturned the conviction of a man named Mack Sims when it was revealed that the prosecution did not disclose that their primary witness had undertaken hypnosis in order to sharpen his memory before the trial. Now, the reason for the quashing of the conviction was an issue of non disclosure rather than the hypnosis per se. But one has to assume that the prosecution did not disclose this fact at the original trial because it would open the door the speculation as to how accurate the witnesses testimony would be.

Hypnosis is a very powerful tool when used by professionals for therapeutic ends. In my opinion, hypnosis has no place in the criminal justice system and should remain well and truly outside it.

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